Can we call ourselves feminists?

2015 is the year that Sweden introduced a feminist foreign policy, at least on paper. It instils great hope that Sweden may become one of the first countries to conduct a foreign policy which is rooted in a feminist value system.

It has already become clear that feminist politics require other priorities than those which have previously guided our foreign policy. The question is whether the government will be able to make the necessary changes.

Using a feminist perspective to analyse society has provided new insights and analytical models for socioeconomic inequalities, which makes us better informed in order to improve services and reach those with the greatest need. This is why we should focus on questions of gender equality and human rights and work to drive change towards an egalitarian society.

Especially today, on the International Women's Day, I would like to say that we are a consulting company working from a feminist foundation. But what does that mean, and are we actually doing it?

In 2012 we identified our specific values in order to define how we want to express our engagement with, and responsibility for, a sustainable society. It included the following text;

We work in the area of international development because we want to contribute to a better and more equal society for women and men, children and youth. We believe, however, that we can be more proactive in acting for change in our field of work. In the assignments we undertake, we use our knowledge to actively contribute to enhancing gender equality, non-discrimination, transparency and accountability, in a participative manner. We challenge ourselves to become better, recognising that it is not always easy and that there are no quick fixes.

A consulting company is never better than the people who work there. So, a fundamental prerequisite for our work is to have high expectations of ourselves. We need to mainstream feminist and gender analyses in our assignments.

As a consulting firm we carry out assignments which others, our clients, have formulated. This begs important questions regarding whether the assignments have been designed using, for instance, a gender equality analysis. Does our client ask that a gender perspective is used in assignments? Sometimes this is the case, but most often it is not. We want to demand from ourselves, that we turn the spotlight on power relations and women's and men's realities, even when this is not requested.

A consulting company usually works together with partners and external experts, which necessitates that we also ask ourselves in which value systems they have their foundation. Should we disregard anyone who is not able to work from a clearly feminist perspective? We have chosen to try to influence those we collaborate with and take responsibility for the end result; results that are relevant, which address questions of equality and where both women and men have been consulted throughout the process and had an opportunity to influence the end result.

What do we mean when we say we work with a feminist value system? As a consultancy, I believe we should consistently work with the following questions in our assignments:

  • Highlight how structural inequality looks within a specific area
  • Highlight both women's and men's, as well as girls' and boys' perspectives and needs in relation to the subject at hand
  • Highlight the negative effects of discrimination and inequality within the relevant area
  • Concretise how international development cooperation efforts should be designed to address inequality and structural discrimination.

A feminist value system should also mean that we contribute to changing the society we live in by breaking down structures which create inequality. Indevelop supports various initiatives and projects in Sweden and globally which work to reduce inequality.

How well are we doing? By critically scrutinising our own role and where we may have potential to influence, I believe that we have opportunities to contribute to change. We have the will and engagement, we actively look for opportunities, and we are heading in the right direction. We would feel proud to call ourselves a feminist consultancy firm.